Brain Map: Medical Miracle or Political Diversion?

April 5, 2013

In his 2014 budget, President Obama proposes spending $100 million to map the human brain. He anticipates major medical benefits. Whether this amount would be sufficient to make a dent in the project is open to question, as is the wisdom of doing this at a time of budget stress. So why now?

I am a fan of basic research, especially in the health area. However, potential health benefits aside, I wonder if there may not be some political benefits behind this initiative.

Why is the President requesting additional federal research spending for the study? If this is as good a project as it sounds, why not divert spending from other, less important federally-funded research projects (e.g. why male fruit files prefer younger female fruit flies to older female fruit flies, building a robot squirrel to test if rattlesnakes are less inclined to attack squirrels that wag their tails, a DOE-developed app to test a home’s energy usage when apps for that already exist, etc.) or other programs that are not delivering a useful product?

Is the President suggesting that all other federal spending is even more worthwhile than this very worthwhile-sounding brain science? If all federal spending is at least this good, then, obviously, no federal spending should be cut, and we must raise taxes.

This smacks of the bread and circuses provided by the emperors of Rome to distract the populace and the Senate from the shortcomings of the leadership regarding the economy and the military situation of the empire.


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